Friday, June 23, 2006


It was with trepidation that I opened the catalog for the upcoming ( June 25/26) movie poster sale at Bonhams in L.A. The chattering cineastes (especially the Morons Of Poster Obsession) had been filling cyber space with criticisms of the accuracy of the listings: re-releases had been listed as original release and sizes and conditions had been misstated and on and on. The catalog had taken awhile to reach me since it had traveled to several of my more recent addresses, finally discovering me unsuccessfully attempting to hide from the demimonde of movie collectors at my lair in the Little israel section of Los Angeles. During that gap in time, I began to wonder what could have come over Margaret Barrett, who was responsible for the sale, along with Greg Shaw and Dana Hawkes.

I had worked with Margaret at Christie’s New York when we put on several movie posters sales together. Greg had organized movie posters sales at Christie’s L.A. including the disposition of the George Cosmatos collection and Dana, of course, had been the head of the department that had put on the spectacularly successful sales at Sotheby’s in New York, working with their consultant Jose Carpio. Could all three of these totally professional experts on all aspects of movie paper lost their senses and put out a catalog rife with errors?

I needn’’t have worried. As I paged through the sales information, I did notice the odd inaccuracy, but not a single movie poster catalog issued in the last 20 years emerged with perfect listings. Auction houses have a routine method of dealing with catalog errors: as they are pointed out, a list is compiled and placed in the sales room while the pre-sale viewing takes place. These days, the corrections are usually made to the on-line catalog on a daily basis. The pressure of meeting catalog deadlines is responsible for most of these errors as is ever present human fallibility. The errors in the Bonham’s catalog were no more egregious then those that I had committed in the catalogs created for the sales at Skinner’s and Christie’s or ones that have appeared in sales at Christie’s London, those at Heritage in Dallas or the mega weekly eBay listings. Once more the idiots of the internet, who are obsessed with he condition of everything and know the value of nothing, had gone into another fit of bitchiness in an attempt to display their supposedly superior knowledge via picayune nit-picking. No wonder we are always disappointed our hobby finds it difficult to spread beyond the few thousand collectors and dealers who co-mingle like one large, incestuous family; with relatives like these, we’ll always remain the West Virginia of entertainment collectibles.

The movie poster section of the sale contains several major items, including the original U.K. program for Metropolis (1927) signed in dedication format by Fritz Lang in 1963. The inscription is to Forrest J. Ackerman, the Keeper Of The Flame for all things cinematic related to horror and science fiction. Another highlight is the original release one sheet (27 x 41 inches) for It Happened One Night (1934.) For the most part, the sale contains a broad range of mid-level posters, lobby card sets and even books, most with reasonable estimates.

The 200 + page catalog contains two other sections of interest: a number of lots devoted to entertainment memorabilia including a strong selection of Orson Welles material and the Vivian Leigh’s presentation script for Gone With The Wind (1939.) This part of the sale also includes rock ‘n roll material, featuring a large amount of Beatles ephemera. The catalog can be viewed online @

Next month’s major movie poster is actually three sales by Heritage scheduled to take place July 12th and 13th. Three distinct catalogs have been issued and the movie poster auction contains 900 lots including the Style B one sheet for Citizen Kane (1941), perhaps the best U.S. graphic on the title; both the style A and style B one sheets for Son of Kong (1933); the six sheet (81 x 81 inches) for Dark Passage (1947) and the star of the sale, the original release one sheet for Grand Hotel (1932.) I had brought what was then thought of as the only known copy to the May 2000 sale at Christie’s, New York, where it fetched close to $50,000. It was purchased by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as part of their program to acquire a one sheet for every Academy Award winning film (their only gap is Cavalcade (1933), so keep an eye out.) The example Heritage is offering surfaced earlier this year on eBay and was quickly withdrawn when the consignor realized that such a major piece needed the special treatment and promotion that could afforded by a large auction house. There is much speculation among movie poster affichionados as to whether the poster can sell within Heritage’s rather broad estimate range ($50,000 -$75,000) without the Academy leading the bidding. But this is a major poster, albeit for a rather poor film. Perhaps the most important aspect of its appearance in the sale is the reinforcement of my new found belief that it is very unlikely only one example of a film poster exists.

The second catalog issued by Heritage is for a selection of over 400 Swedish movie posters, including the one sheet (27.5 x 39.5 inchesl) for The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). The other titles range back to the silent era and the display of images goes a long way to provide much needed information on Sweden’s contribution to film poster art.

The third sale, Lost Hollywood, consists of 150 original examples of special photography by such masters as George Hurrel and Clarence Bull. These are not the run of the mill 8 x 10 glossies shot by a film’s unit photography and found in a publicity departments key set. These are the large format photos shot and often printed by a select group of camera artists who had, from the silent era , developed thecniques and styles that captured and projected to the world the image of glamorous Hollywood. In most cases, only a few of each image were made from the negative since special photographs were sent as exclusives to major newspapers and magazines. Among the highlights of the sale are photos of Boris Karloff, Joan Crawford, the Marx Brothers and Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.

All of the above material can be found @ but as always with material from Heritage, I recommend obtaining the printed catalogs. They are filled with informative comments and are important additions to any movie poster reference library.

I write at the Comfort Inn, Richland, Utah., where I am being held prisoner until I promise to stop saying nasty things about all those nice movie poster collectors. Actually, this is a stopping off point on our way to Salt Lake City, where we tape the second show of the new season of Antiques Roadshow. Last week we drove from L.A. to Tucson, where we taped show #1. We then drove up to Sedona and onto the Grand Canyon for two days of awe. The other day we were at Lake Powell (where the opening to Planet of the Apes was shot) l and on the way back from Salt Lake, we’ll stop off at Boulder Dam. After a break to celebrate our Nation’s independence from just about everybody, we continue the Roadshow tour with stops in Mobile, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Somewhere in there, we’ll grab a week in New York. This year’s Roadshow schedule includes Honolulu, but I had long ago committed to appear at the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention, which is to held in Anaheim this year. We are off to London again in early September. Regards, rudy franchi